Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Coalition of Illinois Social Services Agencies Lose Lawsuit To Force State Of Illinois To Pay Them

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday (Aug. 31) dismissed a lawsuit filed against Illinois by a coalition of social services providers trying to force the state to pay more than $100 million in overdue bills.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rodolfo Garcia ruled that the fiscally shaky state, which has racked up $8 billion in unpaid bills, was immune from lawsuits of this type.

He said, however, that his ruling would allow the human services organizations to take their case quickly to the Illinois Appellate Court.

Andrea Durbin, who heads the Pay Now Illinois coalition that filed the lawsuit, said the ruling should raise concerns.

"I think that this ruling calls into question any contract anyone has with the state of Illinois," she said, adding that it means the state could hold service providers and vendors accountable for their part of a contract while refusing to pay them.

An impasse between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature resulted in an incomplete fiscal 2016 budget and a fiscal 2017 spending plan that covers only six months. The new fiscal year began on July 1.

Even with the temporary budget, which included some fiscal 2016 appropriations, Durbin said some members of her group remain unpaid with no clear indication of when or if state money would begin to flow.

Garcia’s decision came more than three months after the group of social service providers, which included a child-welfare organization led by Illinois first lady Diana Rauner, sued to force the state to pay bills for work performed since July 2015. The coalition's website indicates the state now owes them more than $161 million.

Rauner's office declined to comment on Garcia's decision.

The 97 plaintiffs provide services for sex abuse victims, the homeless, senior citizens and at-risk youth. The plaintiffs argued they have suffered “acute financial hardship” due to the lack of payment.

The coalition contended Rauner's June 2015 veto of spending bills impaired their constitutional right to seek a legal remedy for nonpayment of their various contracts with state government.

article by Karen Pierog and Dave McKinney for Reuters | Aug. 31, 2016

Transportation Security Administration "TSA" Programs for Travelers with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration logo
By Disability.gov Guest Blogger Susan Buckland, Senior Policy Advisor,Transportation Security Administration (TSA) U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mission is to protect our nation’s transportation systems so that we all can travel safely.  TSA Security Officers work to protect and screen approximately two million travelers each day.
All travelers are required to undergo screening, but TSA has developed screening procedures to ensure that travelers and their associated medical items and devices can be screened regardless of the disability or medical condition.  How this screening is conducted depends on the traveler’s disability or medical condition, the technology in use at the checkpoint, and the needs communicated to TSA personnel by the traveler.
TSA Cares
TSA Cares is a helpline for travelers with disabilities or medical conditions who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.  Travelers or their companions may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 or Federal Relay 711 or e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov. The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET from Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET on weekends and holidays.
When a traveler with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a specially trained representative provides information about screening that is relevant to the travelers’ specific disability or medical condition. Information is also provided in writing by email, on request of the caller.
Passenger Support Specialists
By contacting TSA Cares, travelers may also request the assistance of a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) for security screening. The Passenger Support Specialists assist travelers, address traveler-related screening concerns and provide in-person on the spot assistance to travelers requesting assistance in order to enhance the traveler experience, and maintain efficiency in carrying out TSA’s mission.
TSA recommends that passengers call no less than 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with TSA personnel located at the airport when necessary. Each airport has different resources; therefore, the level of assistance received at the checkpoint can vary.  Some airports have an individual who will call the traveler to gather additional information and arrange a meeting time and place.  Other locations notify the checkpoint manager of the traveler’s itinerary, but no pre-contact is made.  Travelers also may ask for the assistance of a Supervisory TSA Officer or PSS while at the checkpoint, and without contacting TSA Cares in advance.
Visit our web site at www.tsa.gov with general inquiries and questions. For information about what to expect as a traveler with a disability or medical condition, visit www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures
You also may contact us through the TSA Contact Center (TCC) by email at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov, or by phone at 866-289-9673 or Federal Relay 711. The TCC’s web page is found at www.tsa.gov/contact-us. For more information about passengers’ civil rights and liberties in the security screening process, or to file a discrimination complaint, go to www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/civil-rights-travelers.
For more from Disibility.gov, visit: https://www.disability.gov/

Los Angeles to spend more than $200 million on settlement on housing for disabled

Los Angeles will spend more than $200 million over the next decade to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that the city failed to provide enough apartments for people with disabilities in its publicly funded housing developments.


great article by Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser for the Los Angeles Times | Aug 30, 2016

Under a deal approved Tuesday by the City Council, city officials will be required to ensure that 4,000 units are accessible to people who use wheelchairs, have hearing impairments or live with other disabilities. The city could reach that goal by building additional apartments, redesigning existing ones or demonstrating that units already built are, in fact, accessible.

Michael Allen, a lawyer for three nonprofit groups that sued the city, called the agreement “the largest accessibility settlement ever reached involving affordable housing.”

“It will send a strong, positive message to cities all over the country that their housing programs must be accessible,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed the settlement, saying in a statement that the city “stands for inclusiveness and access for all.”

"If we have fallen short of that commitment, we need to fix it as quickly as possible,” he said. “This settlement allows us to resolve a long-standing legal issue with a predictable level of investment. More importantly, we are working to meet the needs of our disabled community now and for decades to come.”

The settlement puts Los Angeles on the hook for another costly, multi-year legal payout centering on facilities for the disabled. Last year, city lawmakers agreed to spend $1.3 billion over 30 years on sidewalk repairs — ending a lawsuit that argued broken walkways were a nightmare for wheelchair users.

Tuesday’s vote will end a legal challenge filed in 2012 by Independent Living Center of Southern California, Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, and Communities Actively Living Independent and Free. The dispute focused on apartments that were supposed to be built for the disabled in more than 700 affordable housing projects — buildings with nearly 47,000 units — approved over nearly three decades, city officials said.

The three nonprofits argued that the city and its redevelopment agency had flouted state and federal anti-discrimination laws as they provided public money to affordable housing developments. Such buildings were typically constructed by private developers or nonprofit groups and financed or otherwise assisted by the city and its redevelopment agency.

Disabled residents reported going to apartment buildings that were advertised as accessible, only to find they weren’t. In some locations, apartments had doorways that were too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs, the lawsuit states. Bathrooms and kitchens lacked the room to accommodate wheelchair users.

Allen said that many apartments did not meet the higher accessibility standards established for housing built with government assistance, which require additional features such as lower countertops and grab bars in bathrooms.

“They were not merely technical violations,” Allen said. “They were, in every instance that we studied, significant barriers to people with disabilities using those units, and in some cases the common areas leading to them.”

Sharon Kinlaw, executive director of Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, said her group’s clients encountered apartments that were “absolutely unusable” by people with serious disabilities as early as 2007. Neither the city nor the redevelopment agency took action after they complained, advocates said.

Advocates for the disabled also said the accessible apartments that did exist were frequently occupied by people without disabilities.

Under the settlement, the city is not admitting wrongdoing or conceding that it violated anti-discrimination laws.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who helped negotiate the deal, said housing officials, among others, were responsible for ensuring that publicly financed housing complied with federal disability laws. Los Angeles is taking steps to prevent any such problems in the future, he said.

“This is a settlement where the biggest investment is going to go back to the community -- back to the disabled community, back to those who need affordable housing,” Santana said. “So Angelenos are really the biggest beneficiaries.”

Santana said the settlement could also set the stage for a separate agreement ending a federal investigation over housing for disabled Angelenos, initiated five years ago by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the agreement, city officials will need to go into hundreds of buildings to determine whether the required number of units for the disabled were built — and if so, whether those units comply with the correct standards.

At this point, officials do not know to what extent the city fell short.

“Until we actually go in and evaluate every unit and make that determination, we really can’t tell you,” Santana said.

The city must spend an average of $20 million annually on the program and ensure that at least 2,655 of the 4,000 units are designed for wheelchair users. The settlement will also require new affordable housing supported by the city to include a larger percentage of units for people with disabilities than is currently required.

In addition to the $200 million, L.A. will also pay $4.5 million to the nonprofits that sued the city, plus up to $1 million in court costs and up to $20 million in attorneys’ fees.

The deal does not resolve outstanding legal claims against the redevelopment agency, which is now separate from city government.

The agreement is one in a string of major settlements that will saddle Los Angeles with financial obligations lasting for years. The council voted in March to spend up to $30 million over four years on job training and other programs to conclude a class-action suit over curfews in city gang injunctions. A year earlier, city lawmakers agreed to spend at least $31 million per year on sidewalk repairs.

In addition, the city has faced large onetime payouts, including a legal deal unveiled last year to pay up to $92.5 million to end a lawsuit over allegations that the city was improperly collecting telephone taxes. Santana said the ultimate amount is anticipated to be closer to $50 million.

Councilman Gil Cedillo said he isn't worried about the price tag for the latest settlement. The city, he said, has a "solid surplus" and can absorb the added cost.

"It’s our responsibility" to ensure that disabled Angelenos have access to affordable housing, Cedillo said. "So it’s the least we could do."
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-housing-settlement-disabled-20160828-snap-story.html

Public Transit in London offers "Please offer me a seat" badges in a bid for "Priority Seating" needs

People with hidden health conditions are being offered "Please offer me a seat" badges in a bid to help ease their suffering on London transport.

The Transport for London (TfL) trial follows the success of its "Baby on board" badge for pregnant women.

TfL is recruiting 1,000 people to start wearing the blue badges from 12 September.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he hoped they would "give confidence" to people who find standing difficult.

'European first'
Some travellers, such as James McNaught who is joining the trial, had already started making their own badges to alert fellow passengers to their condition.

The 45-year-old designed "Cancer on board" badges after travelling on the Tube between Kentish Town and University College Hospital for chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy on his throat left him unable to speak to ask for a seat, and the morphine made him appear drunk.
"I'm really pleased TfL is doing this trial," he said. "A badge and card could help make a real difference to the lives of people undergoing drug treatment or with longer term conditions or disabilities."
TfL will use social media and customer information to encourage other passengers to look out for the badges.

"This small act of consideration from Londoners could make a huge difference to disabled people getting around the city and being fully involved in all London has to offer," said Alice Mitchell-Pye of charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The six-week trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Europe.

SSOURCE: BBC News

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Equip for Equality's 30 years of advancing the human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois


In honor of Equip for Equality's  30 years of advancing the human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. It's a privledge to share a e-book highlighting Equip for Equality history!


Justice Dept. Focuses on Police Treatment of Mentally Ill

Justice Department lawyers investigating police agencies for claims of racial discrimination and excessive force are increasingly turning up a different problem: officers' interactions with the mentally ill.
By ERIC TUCKER, ASSOCIATED PRESS | Aug. 29, 2016  
The latest example came in Baltimore, where a critical report on that department's policies found that officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with mentally disabled people who in many instances haven't even committed crimes.

The report cited instances of officers using a stun gun to subdue an agitated man who refused to leave a vacant building and of spraying mace to force a troubled person — said by his father to be unarmed and off his medications — out of an apartment.

Though past federal investigations have addressed the problem, the Baltimore report went a step further: It was the first time the Justice Department has explicitly found that a police department's policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The finding is intended to chart a path to what federal officials hope will be far-reaching improvements, including better training for dispatchers and officers, diversion of more people to treatment rather than jail and stronger relationships with mental health specialists.

"Through the course of our work in the last several years on this bucket of issues, we've seen how important it is to get at the mental health issues as early in the system as possible," Vanita Gupta, head of the department's Civil Rights Division, said in an interview.

Civil rights officials say the Baltimore report builds on work they've done in investigating the treatment of the mentally ill in various settings. In Mississippi, the Hinds County jail in June agreed to better screening for mental illness as part of a settlement, and the Justice Department sued the state as a whole this month, saying it was illegally making mentally ill people go into state-run psychiatric hospitals.

But it's the work with police departments that often attracts the most attention. Even as police forces improve training and develop intervention teams to respond to individuals in the throes of a crisis, concerns remain that officers aren't adequately equipped for the situations and are being forced to fill the void of a resource-starved mental health infrastructure.

More than 14 percent of male jail inmates and 31 percent of female inmates are affected by serious mental illness, according to a July speech by Justice Department official Eve Hill, who said society has for too long relied on arrests and jail rather than treatment for the mentally ill.

"From the standpoint of police, they are somewhat frustrated because many of the people who are walking the streets and who are in need of help are not getting it," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. "They have been out on the streets, they can't afford medication, and so the police wind up being the only one they come in contact with."

The Justice Department has incorporated treatment of the mentally ill into several of its wide-ranging civil rights investigations of troubled police departments.

"I think some police departments have really made it a priority and are doing quite a bit. I don't know that that's consistent across all the departments," said Amy Watson, a mental health policy professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

A 2011 Justice Department report on Seattle criticized officers for too quickly resorting to force when encountering people with mental illness or under the influence of drugs.

In Cleveland, officers were found to use stun guns against people with limited cognitive abilities, and in one case used one on a suicidal deaf man who may not have understood their commands, according to a 2014 report.

Albuquerque, New Mexico officers responding to a domestic violence complaint used the same tactic on a man who had doused himself with gasoline, the Justice Department said.

Those cities have since reached court-enforceable consent decrees aimed at overhauling practices.

The Portland police department, which also came under investigation, agreed to new training and accountability measures under a settlement. A federal monitor in February found the Seattle police department was sending trained crisis intervention officers to "crisis events in the great majority of instances" and had given some level of training to all officers in the last two years.

Federal officials hope for a similar resolution in Baltimore, where the Justice Department says police have provided minimal training on responding to mental health crises. Under an agreement in principle, Baltimore has pledged to work more closely with disability organizations and mental health providers.

But, Gupta said, improvements can occur only if there's a system with resources in place to help the police.

"It's not about casting blame on specific actors. It's about making sure that there is adequate support for community-based mental health services in compliance with federal law," she said.

Ray Kelly, a leader of the No Boundaries Coalition, a Baltimore advocacy group, said he didn't believe Baltimore police have succeeded in separating law-abiding citizens from criminal suspects, "so they definitely don't take the time to separate the mentally ill from the criminal element or the average Joe buying drugs on one of our corners."

He said he hoped the report would foster better collaboration between police and mental health experts, so that if there's a possibility that officers are dealing with someone who's disabled, they "would call a professional that's prepared to work with this instead of using aggressive manhandling tactics like they've used in the past."

VA Testing Benefits of Mobility Service Dogs for Veterans with Mental Health Conditions

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it is piloting a protocol to implement veterinary health benefits for mobility service dogs approved for Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders.
“We take our responsibility for the care and safety of Veterans very seriously,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing appropriate, safe and effective, compassionate care to all Veterans. Implementing the veterinary health benefit for mobility service dogs approved for Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders may prove to be significantly beneficial for some Veterans. The Service Dog Benefits Pilot will evaluate this premise.”
VA has been providing veterinary benefits to Veterans diagnosed as having visual, hearing or substantial mobility impairments and whose rehabilitation and restorative care is clinically determined to be optimized through the assistance of a guide dog or service dog. With this pilot, this benefit is being provided to Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with a mental health disorder for whom the service dog has been identified as the optimal way for the Veteran to manage the mobility impairment and live independently.

Service dogs are distinguished from pets and comfort animals because they are specially trained to perform tasks or work for a specific individual with a disability who cannot perform the task or accomplish the work independently. To be eligible for the veterinary health benefit, the service dog must be trained by an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International in accordance with VA regulations.

Currently, 652 Veterans with approved guide or service dogs receive the veterinary service benefit. This Pilot is anticipated to provide the veterinary service benefit to up to 100 additional Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with a mental health disorder.

The VA veterinary service benefit includes comprehensive wellness and sick care (annual visits for preventive care, maintenance care, immunizations, dental cleanings, screenings, etc.), urgent/emergent care, prescription medications, and care for illnesses or disorders when treatment enables the dog to perform its duties in service to the Veteran.

Additional information about VA’s service dog program can be found at http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/ServiceAndGuideDogs.asp

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Press Release

Monday, August 29, 2016

Disability Resources Available on Voting and Polling Place Accessibility

The U.S. Access Board is sharing some great resources!

Button with the term "vote" and the International Symbol of Accessibility replacing the letter "o"Voting is a fundamental and protected right for all citizens, including those with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws, people with disabilities must have full and equal opportunities to vote. The Department of Justice (DOJ), which regulates and enforces ADA mandates that apply to state and local governments, offers several guides on the subject. These include the "ADA Checklist for Polling Places," a 25-page resource (pdf) DOJ recently updated that explains what makes a polling place accessible from entry onto the site to voting areas. It also recommends design remedies and provides a survey checklist for evaluating polling place accessibility. Other resources from DOJ include a bulletin (pdf) that provides solutions to common access problems at polling places and a guide (pdf) to federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities.

In addition to the ADA, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 established requirements for voting systems used in Federal elections and requires access to polling places and voting systems for persons with disabilities. Under the law, each precinct in the country must have at least one accessible voting machine or system so that people with disabilities, including those with vision impairments, are afforded the same opportunity for participation, including privacy and independence, available to other voters. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which implements HAVA and issues guidance on meeting the requirements of the law, including guidelines for voting systems, is another key resource on accessible voting. The EAC offers a "BeReady16" toolkit that includes a section on accessibility, and other resources on accessible polling places and voting systems for voters with disabilities and voting officials. Visit EAC's website at www.eac.gov for further information.

Those who encounter accessibility issues in voting can contact the Voting Section of DOJ's Civil Rights Division which enforces civil provisions of federal laws that protect the right to vote, including HAVA and the Voting Rights Act. Complaints can be filed through an online form or submitted
at voting.section@usdoj.gov (email), (800) 253-3931 (phone), (202) 307-3961 (fax), or the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Room 7254 – NWB, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20530.


Disability Issues - 10 Things to Know before Going Back to School

Disability.gov has shared some great ideas to consider,

10 Things to Know before Going Back to School
  1. Back to School. Summer is coming to an end and parents, teachers and students are preparing to head back to the classroom. This can be a stressful time, but there are ways to make the transition easier. These include making sure to allow time for your child to adjust to changes in routine and wake-up and bedtimes. The new school year means new teachers, classmates, and for some students, a new school. The Child Mind Institute hastips to help parents prepare their child for changing schools. Parents should purchase schools supplies in advance; your school may have a list, but here are some suggestions to get you started. You may also want to set an end-of-day routine for when your children get home from school. It’s important to realize that some students, including those with learning disabilities, may need to use different learning strategies. A range of tools and techniques are available to help meet the needs of students with disabilities. They include assistive technologiesadapted teaching methods and alternative communication strategies. Find more back-to-school resources and tips.
  1. IDEA and Section 504. Some of the most important special education services are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. IDEA ensures that school-age children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education. It also provides for special education services, including an individualized education program (IEP). The IEP contains goals for the student and spells out the services that will be provided, which are decided by a team of individuals involved in the student’s education. A Section 504 plan can be an alternative to the IEP and outlines how a child’s specific needs can be met with modifications and services to remove barriers to learning. So, how are these two laws different? Section 504’s definition of disability is broader: a child is eligible if they have a mental or physical disability that limits major life activity, a record of the disability or is regarded as having a disability. There are alsodifferences between IDEA and Section 504 in how funds are used, how students are evaluated and the process used that’s used if a parent disagrees with the identification, evaluation or placement of a student.
  1. Finding Homework Help. When the school day is over, it’s time to get started on homework, which can sometimes be a source of frustration and anxiety. Friendship Circle, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, has a blog post that includes “Nine Tips to Make Homework Manageable.” LD Online also offers a variety of articles to help children and youth with learning disabilities with note taking, time management and learning strategies. Understood’s “Homework & Study Skills” section includes an article on “7 Tips for Improving Your Child’s Homework & Study Skills.” Ideas include creating a designated “homework station” where your child feels relaxed and focused. It also suggests using a color-coded system to organize schoolwork. It can be challenging for parents to understand just how involved they should get with their children’s homework. This article fromGreatSchools helps parents find the right balance so they can support their children while letting them complete tasks independently. If disorganization affects your child’s ability to succeed in school, watch thisvideo for ways to improve organizational skills.
  1. Antsy about Tests. Feeling very nervous, anxious or stressed when it’s time to take a test in school is known as “test anxiety.” This is a common experience among students, but there are many ways to reduce these feelings. These stress-buster ideas can help your child relax before a test. Understood, a website with information about learning and attention disabilities, has tips to help grade-schoolersmiddle-schoolers andhigh-schoolers who get anxious before tests. One way to reduce test-related stress is by developing goodorganizational and study skills. There are also test-taking tips and strategies that students with learning disabilities can use to help prevent or reduce anxiety. In addition, students with disabilities and their parents should know about the types of accommodations they can request to make test-taking more accessible. These can include extra time on tests, distraction-free rooms and alternative testing methods.
  1. The Basics about Bullying. As your children gets ready to go back to school, take some time to talk with them about the differences and disabilities that other children may have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Kids’ Quest on Disability and Health is a helpful resource that parents can use to teach children about many types of disabilities. You can also use these suggested phrases to explain disability to children of all ages. By talking to your children about disabilities, you can play an important role in preventing bullying in school. Teach your children to recognize the signs of bullying and take steps to learn about bullying and disabilities. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, studies show that children with disabilities experience bullying more frequently than children without disabilities. Bullying can affect a child’s ability to learn. There are federal laws that protect children with disabilities from bullying. The U.S. Department of Education also has guidance on keeping students with disabilities safe from bullying. For more information on how to prevent bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.
  1. Service Animals in Schools. Service animals assist people with sight or hearing issues, mental health disabilities, seizure disorders, autism and other disabilities and health conditions. There are several federal civil rights laws that protect the rights of people who use service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) guarantees a student with a disability has the right to use a service animal at school. Emotional support animals, therapy animals and companion animals aren’t covered by the ADA. They also aren’t typically allowed to accompany students in public schools. However, the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Actprovide for the use of an animal that doesn’t meet the ADA definition of a service animal if that student’s IEP or Section 504 team decide the animal is necessary to meet the student’s educational needs. Many states have laws that include a different definition of a service animal. Check with your state’s protection and advocacy agency if you have any questions or concerns about the use of service animals in schools.
  1. Eating Right at Lunchtime. Getting kids to eat healthy foods can be challenging for parents. The good news is that there’s a lot of information out there to help children and teens make healthy food choices. If a student is eating a breakfast or lunch that’s part of the National School Lunch Program, there are specific dietary standards for sodium and calorie content and fruit, vegetable and whole grain components of each meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has resources to help schools meet these standards and ensure that school meals are healthy. If you decide packing lunches and snacks is a better option for you and your child, there are cost effective and nutritious ways to do this. Kids with Down syndrome or autism may have certain dietary restricts or aversions which need to be considered when planning school lunches. The Let’s Move Campaign has a videofeaturing the White House Executive Chef on making school lunches using federal My PlateChooseMyPlate.gov also offers a sample two-week menu for eating on a budget, which includes ideas for healthy school lunches.
  1. Inclusive Physical Education. Physical activity is important for all children, including those with disabilities. Studies have shown that young people with disabilities are more likely to be obese than their nondisabled peers, and exercise is a key part of maintaining a healthy weight. Schools have certain obligations under the IDEA to include students with disabilities in physical education classes. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also contains regulations that ensure students with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in after school sports. This U. Department of Education guide helps schools provide inclusive and adaptive physical education opportunities for students with disabilities. The American Association of Adapted Sports Programsalso provides information to help schools develop programs that include students with disabilities in after school sports. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability has resources for educators, including videos about Section 504 regulations and inclusive physical education. In addition, the White House’s “Sports for All” and “I Can Do It, You Can Do It!” initiatives promote the importance of physical fitness programs for students with disabilities.
  1. Tips for College Bound Students with Disabilities. Starting college can be an exciting time, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. There are several things students with disabilities can do to make the transition to college go more smoothly. One is to contact their college or university’s disability student services office to learn about supports and accommodations for students with disabilities. Be aware that IDEA no longer covers students once they’ve graduated from high school. Legal protections for post-high school students are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The use of service dogs and emotional support animals in student housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504. Read this guide from the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about the rights of college students with disabilities. ThinkCollege offers advice from college students with intellectual disabilities, and theGoing to College website explains the major differences between high school and college. To learn more, visit Disability.gov’s planning for college section.
  1. Learning to Speak for Yourself. If you’re a student with a disability, self-advocacy skills are important for you to develop as you grow older. There are three key parts to being a self-advocate in school. First, know your needs. Then, learn what accommodations can support your needs. Finally, learn how to communicate your needs to teachers. “Youth in Action! Becoming a Stronger Self-Advocate” helps students with disabilities learn more about self-advocacy. An especially good time to practice being a self-advocate is during IEP meetings. This can help you as you begin to prepare for finishing high school or college. If you’re getting ready to graduate from high school this guide from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) for Youth is a great tool for thinking about next steps. Students just starting or getting ready to graduate from college can read the “Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities“ to prepare for the future. There are also resources and organizations for self-advocates with specific types of disabilities, including spinal cord injuries andautism. Visit Self Advocacy Online to learn more.
Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #DisabilityConnection to talk to us about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts in the community.
Read past issues of the 'Disability Connection' newsletter.

Lexus Car Dealership Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

from a Press Release on Aug. 26, 2016

Scottsdale Car Dealership Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Bell Lexus and The Berge Group Rescinded Job Offer Based on Woman's Lawful Prescription Drug Use, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - A Scottsdale, Ariz., car dealership company violated federal law by rescinding a job offer after a pre-employment drug test revealed a prescription drug used to treat a disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Bell-Arrow Automotive, Inc. (doing business as Bell Lexus), a subsidiary of Bell Leasing, Inc. (doing business as The Berge Group), maintained a policy of refusing to employ any applicant who tested positive for one of several enumerated substances on a list identi­fied by Bell Lexus and the Berge Group. Bell Lexus extended a job offer to Sara Thorholm to work as product specialist or a salesperson, but rescinded it when her drug test returned positive for a single substance. Thorholm explained to Bell Lexus that the substance was legally prescribed to treat a disability and would not affect her ability to perform the duties of the job. Bell Lexus refused both Thorholm's offer of proof and her offer to change medications.
Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual's disability or need for reasonable accommoda­tion, and to make such accommodations absent undue hardship. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Bell Leasing, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:16-cv-02848-DKD) after first attempt­ing to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages. EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including training on the ADA, and other relief to prevent further discriminatory practices.
"Even when drug tests are permitted under the ADA, they cannot be used to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Com­panies need to be mindful that they may need to make exceptions to drug use policies as a reasonable accom­modation."
EEOC Phoenix Acting District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, "Employers must maintain responsible hiring practices and be understanding about their employees' backgrounds. A blanket exclusion policy based on drug use does not accomplish that goal, and may cause problems for the employer if it applies such a policy."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov

Worldwide Hair Salon Corp. Settles Discrimination Suit for Not Providing Accommodation to Employee with Mental Health Disability

from a Press Release on Aug. 25, 2016

Regis Corporation to Pay $60,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Hair Salon Refused to Accommodate Stylist's Claustrophobia, Agency Charged
MIDLAND, Texas - Minnesota-based Regis Corporation, doing business as SmartStyle, will pay $60,000 in damages and back pay to former hair stylist Nora Jacquez to settle a federal disability discrimination suit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to EEOC, Regis denied Jacquez an accommodation for her claustrophobia and then fired her.  EEOC said Jacquez was hired as a hair stylist in January 2014 at the company's Midland location.  Due to her claustrophobia, Jacquez could not work at a salon station if it was in a confined space located between others.  Although at first she was assigned to a more open station at the salon, the company later moved her to work between other stylists.   Despite repeated requests to continue working in her original spot, Regis refused to move her back to a station that would allow her to not feel claustrophobic and increase the potential for episodic anxiety attacks.  This decision by Regis resulted in a physical reaction that sent Jacquez to the hospital emergency room for treatment for her claustrophobia.  EEOC also claimed when Jacquez needed two months off from work to undergo medical treatment, the company failed to follow through to assist her with the necessary paperwork for medical leave and fired her.
The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") prohibits disability discrimination, including denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, in the workplace.  EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 7:15-cv-00160-XR) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief, the two year consent decree requires substantial injunctive relief, including conducting annual ADA training for the district leader, all salon managers, and hair stylists at Regis salons in Midland, Odessa, and Big Spring.  The company will post a notice regarding disability discrimination, and describe the reporting procedure for employees who believe they have been discriminated against on the job.
"This settlement is an important reminder to employers of their obligation to comply with the ADA and ensure that employees who need a reasonable accommodation will receive the protections and opportunities available to them under federal law," said EEOC senior trial attorney Devika Seth.
EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino said, "Claustrophobia is a serious matter.  When we discovered management refused to give this employee some space, our investigation closed in on what amounted to intolerance by management.  The consent decree provides an avenue for the employer to change its approach and communicate its commitment to its employees with disabilities."
SmartStyle is owned by Regis Corporation, which operates salons worldwide under the trade names SmartStyle, Supercuts, Regis Salons, Mastercuts, and Sassoon Salon. According to the company website, Regis owns, franchises, or has ownership interest in over 10,000 locations worldwide and the SmartStyle salon chain has over 2,500 locations in 49 states.
EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, adminis­trative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in northern Texas and parts of New Mexico.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.